Rite Aid, a drugstore chain, has shut down its Apple Pay support (albeit unofficial) a few days ago. It has now requested its customers to use their credit cards for payments, instead of utilizing Apple's mobile payment system.
CVS Pharmacy, another large pharmacy chain, has also stopped supporting Apple Pay. Reportedly, CVS had emailed its stores, instructing its branches to remove Apple Pay support. Specifically, over the weekend the pharmacy chain has shut down the technology -- near field communications (NFC) -- responsible for facilitating Apple Pay transactions. Without NFC technology, Apple Pay (and also Google Wallet) will not be able to work with the POS terminals at all CVS pharmacies.
Apparently, news is emerging that both retailers are busy developing their own mobile payment system called CurrentC. And it appears that they are working on CurrentC together with the rest of the Merchant Consumer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of major retailers. However, because it is still in development phase, CurrentC will likely not launch until sometime in 2015.
Apple for its part has issued an official statement indirectly addressing this recent development. In a statement sent to Business Insider, the tech giant said: “The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.”
Basically, Apple is saying “your loss” but in a polite and diplomatic way of course. The timing of Rite Aid's and CVS's blocking does seem a bit off and abrupt. After all, if you can not offer a suitable alternative yet, why not keep Apple Pay for the time being?
And per early reports, it seems that MCX's idea of a mobile payment system may not be as polished or as secure as Apple's. CurrentC proposes to use quick response (QR) codes to be scanned at pay terminals. Compared to Apple Pay's encrypted code generation, QR codes are just not that safe (they can be captured and put on another device). To make the process more secure, users may need to enter a personal identification number (PIN). There is no problem with that, but in terms of convenience and quickness, it can not beat the ease of Touch ID's fingerprint scanning.
Also, CurrentC will be able to track the purchase history (which is something Apple Pay does not do). Users may feel a bit uncomfortable with this. And though it is not impossible, it will be difficult for CurrentC to match Apple Pay's reach and popularity.
Still, it may be too early to tell what impact Rite Aid's and CVS's move may have overall on Apple Pay. For Apple, retailers, and of course, the consumers, they will just have to wait and see.
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